This recipe was brought to The Times by Regina Schrambling in a 1989 article about a return to simple Italian food after an almost decade long obsession with culinary excess and exotica (goose prosciutto, anyone?). This version of the classic pasta dish is an adaptation of a one from Giuliano Bugialli, an Italian cookbook author and cooking teacher. It is simple to prepare – 45 minutes from start to finish -– but full of bright, sophisticated flavors. If you can’t get your hands on bucatini or perciatelli, spaghetti will do just fine.
- ½ pound of unsliced pancetta or prosciutto
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 ½ pounds canned tomatoes, preferably imported Italian
- ½ teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound dried bucatini or perciatelli, preferably imported Italian
- ½ cup freshly grated pecorino, romano or Parmesan cheese
- Cut the pancetta or prosciutto into chunks less than one-half inch thick. Place in a saucepan with the olive oil and fry over low heat for 15 minutes, until all the fat has been rendered out and the meat is very crisp. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add the onion to the pan and saute over medium heat for five minutes.
- Drain the tomatoes, finely chop them and add to the onion in the pan. Season with red-pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil and add salt to taste. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 9 to 12 minutes, depending on the brand. Drain well.
- Transfer the cooked sauce to a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and the reserved meat and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the cheese and mix very well. Transfer the pasta to a warm platter and serve immediately.